13 places to stay in the Elgin Valley

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 20 November 2019

The gateway to the Overberg is filled with hidden gems. Instead of flying past on the N2, turn off onto a country road and discover superb views and hospitality at these top spots.

The Elgin Valley forms part of the 100 000-hectare Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, and many of the farms are conservation- and eco-conscious or organic.

1. Oak Valley 1902 Cottage

Best Historic

*Not on TripAdvisor

I’ll come clean and admit it: I’m addicted to Oak Valley’s Sauvignon Blanc, and not just because it’s called Fountain of Youth. Rooting myself, however temporarily, in its terroir would be bliss, I thought, and it was. 1902 Cottage is charming, with oak trees and orchards viewed through sash windows, a dining room-lounge centred on a lovely big open fireplace (wood supplied), and a loft bedroom built into the pitched roof reached via a fairly steep flight of stairs. The king-size bed is made up with quality linen, and there is also an attractive daybed nook upstairs. The only caveat is that the kitchen and bathroom are dated. Wine tasting (!) is walking distance away, and there are three MTB trails on site. Oak Valley farm is huge (also producing fruit, cut flowers, beef and pork) – the size of a small country – but entrance is strictly controlled so you feel both super-safe and in a timeless rural idyll; two owls have made their home in the oak trees beside the cottage – listening in on their conversation at dawn was delightful.

Room Tip
In the loft bedroom, there is an en-suite toilet and basin; note that the bathroom (shower only) is downstairs.
From R675 per person sharing (sleeps two).
021-859-2510, oakvalley.co.za

2. South Hill

Best B&B

*TripAdvisor No. 2 of 4 B&Bs/Inns

On one of several farms in the area producing superb wines, hands-on hospitable owners Kevin and Sandy King offer marvellous accommodation options. The main six-bedroom guest house, built like a family home, features a generously proportioned communal kitchen-living-dining room overlooking a well-groomed garden with a 15-metre pool, long al-fresco table, a braai/pizza oven and 360-degree vineyard views. It’s available as an exclusive-use self-catering villa or rooms can be booked on an individual B&B basis – the estate’s restaurant and tasting locale are a stone’s throw away. Super-helpful Sandy sends restaurant recommendations prior to your arrival, or you can pre-order from her dinner/tapas menu; her chef leaves it in the kitchen for guests to heat. Then there’s the uber-romantic Pumphouse (pictured), a privately located self-catering cottage for two with incredible views – it was being renovated at the time of my visit but if it’s ready, don’t hesitate. Kevin is also in the process of building a three-bedroom houseboat on the dam that looks like it’s going to be a big hit.

Room Tip
Pumphouse is the one to book for a romantic weekend away; in the guest house, the Loft Suite and Room 1 are my choices.
Rooms from R560 per person sharing B&B, or the house (exclusive use) R10 ,560. Pumphouse R1 ,540 B&B (sleeps two).

021-844-0888, southhill.co.za

3. Elgin River Lodge

Best For Water Babies

*TripAdvisor No. 1 of 6 Speciality Lodgings

It’s a beautiful drive, with sweeping views of farmlands and sky-reflected dams, until the final descent on a bit of bumpy dirt to this small resort on the banks of the Palmiet River. There are just 15 en-suite cabins, most on stilts under trees near the river, with doors opening onto a small balcony with – dare I say it again – lovely views. The accommodation is basic but comfortable, and guests spend most of their days on or next to the water. The 90-hectare farm has a 2,5-kilometre sweep of the tea-coloured Palmiet River, so it offers wonderful swimming, canoeing and hiking, or you can just relax on the barge and at the riverside lapa that serves pub-style meals and picnics. Note that this is a strictly catered resort; no BYO food or booze allowed. Managers Tyrone and Cassandra Hagglund, recent parents to Charlotte, are warm and welcoming, and run the resort like it’s a family-owned concern.

Room Tip
I’d request any of the timber chalets numbering 1 to 10, all on tall stilts with the most elevated views. These are a mix of standard (sleeping two) and family (sleeping four in an open-plan room). Numbers 15 and 16 are brick and the only ones right on the water, but also next to the restaurant so not very private. Numbers 11, 12 and 14 are set quite a bit further back.
From R500 per person sharing B&B. Family chalet from R1 ,500 B&B (sleeps four).
021-846-8345, elginriverlodge.co.za

4. Wildekrans Country House

Best All Round

*TripAdvisor No. 1 of 4 B&Bs/Inns

Everyone in Elgin asked me, with a note of awe, if I’d been to Wildekrans, and when I visited I understood why. Not to be confused with Wildekrans wine estate in Bot River, this historic home (1811) in Houw Hoek has been beautifully restored and decorated by Alison Green, a civil engineer, and her architect husband Barry Gould. The house has a deeply restorative atmosphere, with antique furniture and detailing contrasting with modern bespoke design pieces and an enviable contemporary- art collection. The cosy living room with open fireplace is very inviting, but by day it’s the garden, glimpsed through cottage-pane windows, that calls – rambling, heavily treed, with a river running through it and a mountain slope with walking paths behind. (Wildekrans is a stop on the Blue and Green Mountain slackpacking trails, both founded by Alison). There’s a pool and a resident walking guide, and summer meals and wine tastings are offered in the thick-walled barn. Guests hankering to self-cater are welcome to use the kitchen (or book to stay in the traditional Cape cottage alongside the main house). This is unassuming luxury, the real deal.

Room Tip
All three suites in the main house are lovely. Birch Cottage sleeps four, ideal for a family. All accommodation is offered as B&B, full board or self-catering.
B&B from R750 per person sharing, self-catering from R650 per person sharing.
028-284-9827, wildekrans.co.za

5. Vredenhof Farm Cottage

Best For Four Adults

*Not on TripAdvisor

This was home for the Gilfillan family while they renovated the main farmhouse, and you can feel how much they loved living here – this is the most decadent, richly layered and expensively decorated cottage in the valley, with floors covered in Persian rugs and rush matting, walls papered in original art and furniture reupholstered in a deft mix of fabrics. Margot clearly has a real passion for decorating and has created a luxurious, feminine and altogether comforting cottage; she is also a perfectionist who blocks off June to August every year for a thorough maintenance overhaul. There is a private garden with big trees and a Weber out back, and in summer you wander a short distance to cool off in the dam. It’s a wonderful spot to chill – overlooked by a well-constructed T-shaped jetty, furnished with loungers and umbrella and surrounded by beautiful views. It’s a great property, but not really one suitable for children.

Room Tip
The main bedroom has a fireplace so you can fall asleep to the sound of a crackling fire. The two bedrooms share a bathroom but it’s lovely, with large walk-in shower, claw-foot tub, antique mirror and Persian runner as a bathmat.
R2 ,500 a night (sleeps four), including daily cleaning service.
083-326-7795, airbnb.com

6. Brookelands Stone Cottage

Most Romantic

*Not on TripAdvisor

Deep in the valley on a small fruit farm, tucked away under trees and screened by shrubs, is this most romantic little cottage. It’s rather like being in a fairy tale: a cosy one-roomed space, tastefully furnished, with double doors leading out onto a deck and lush private garden. You even have your own little bridge over the stream that runs alongside the cottage, creating a soothing and tranquil soundtrack. The en-suite bathroom has a bathtub, plus there is an enclosed outdoor shower under trees. The kitchen is pretty basic: a microwave, kettle, toaster and two-plate stove, but with such lovely surrounds you’ll surely be braaiing (there’s a choice of a Weber and braai stand). Hikers and birders can explore the Kogelberg Nature Reserve bordering the farm, Lebanon is the nearest MTB trail, and guests are welcome to take a dip in the farm’s dams.

Room Tip
If this is not available, try the Pumphouse (see South Hill, page 44) or the cottages at Cheverells (see Worth a Look opposite) – all great little boltholes for two.

From R950 a night (sleeps two).

021-300-0943, elginfarmstay.co.za, airbnb.com

7. Trail’s End

Best For Cyclists

*TripAdvisor No. 1 of 13 Speciality Lodgings in Grabouw

‘Mountain biking is the new golf, only much more accessible,’ Gareth John, the manager, tells me as I wander around Africa’s first bike hotel. It’s perfectly positioned at the start of several trails of varying length. ‘You can ride out the front gate and return 100 kilometres later.’ A barn-like space purpose-designed for cycling enthusiasts and trail runners, but also great for active families, it has eight rooms downstairs sharing two sparkling clean bathrooms (one for men, one for women), and eight en-suite rooms on the mezzanine level. It’s a slick, hostel-style hotel, with an open-plan lounge-library and restaurant, a lap pool, children’s play area and climbing wall, and braai facilities (the only self-catering allowed, at R50 per person for wood, utensils and the staff washing up). There is also a practice flow-trail and mini pump-track on site, bike-washing and storage facilities, and a small wellness centre for bodies that have taken a beating.

Room Tip
Options vary from dorm-style rooms to en-suite doubles and family rooms. Room 13 is great for an individual or couple; Room 9 is a good choice for a family of five. Note that there are a few rooms without windows.
En-suite room from R515 per person sharing B&B (or R460 pp with shared bathroom).
021-859-5193, trailsend.bike

8. Rockhaven Farm

Best For A Group

*TripAdvisor No. 3 of 6 Speciality Lodgings

In the middle of an apple orchard, with views of the surrounding valley, Frog Cottage at Rockhaven Farm is elegant and uncluttered, with cool white spaces warmed by rich Persian rugs and pretty timber accents. The three en-suite bedrooms are similar in size and decor (each with a queen-size bed), making this an equitable option for three couples/individuals looking to share. Decadent touches include underfloor heating in the large bathrooms; the open-plan lounge has two comfortable chairs centred on the fireplace, while the main sofa setup is centred on the TV. The kitchen is well equipped for self-catering, and the broad veranda has a table for al-fresco meals. Two-bedroom Orchard Cottage, walking distance away and somewhat more rustic, is often booked in tandem; Frog has enough cutlery, crockery and glassware to cater for these extra guests.

Room Tip
One Frog Cottage bedroom is entered off the deck, so will suit someone who wants more privacy. Another bedroom has an alcove with two daybeds for children. If Rockhaven is unavailable – it’s a popular wedding venue – try Old Mac Daddy (see below).
Frog Cottage from R3, 600 a night (sleeps six to eight); Orchard Cottage from R1, 200 a night (sleeps four). Discounts are offered on longer stays.
021-849-8664, rockhavenfarm.co.za

Worth A Look

9. Cheverells Farm Cottages
Vying for the title of most romantic bolthole, I loved these cottages. Both offer a single lounge-bedroom-kitchen space warmed by a fireplace, en-suite bathroom with high-pressure shower and a deep stoep with a view. Generously equipped with Nespresso machines, Wi-Fi, wood, muesli, rusks and freshly baked bread, this is excellent value. From R950 a night (both sleep two). cheverellsfarm.com

10. Cherry Glamping
There are many tented options in the valley; of these, Cherry is a great choice for a group: 12 spacious, furnished bell tents (sleeping two) set in a pine forest, a communal lounge with 24-seater table and fireplace, two farm-dam pools, three ablution blocks and a huge deck. Self-catering or catered. A new camp with 20 more tents opens at the end of this month. From R1, 000 per person sharing (but cheaper the longer you stay); extra beds for kids cost R250 each. cherryglamping.co.za

11. Old Mac Daddy
Best known for its Airstream trailers, I prefer the self-catering options. The School House has an enormous deck, three bedrooms plus
a basement with extra beds (from R4,  095 B&B for six people, plus R250–R450 per person extra).

12. Daddy’s Villa is a three-bedroomed timber house on stilts with superb views (from R3, 195 B&B, sleeps six). The facilities on site, including
a man-made beach alongside a picturesque dam, are marvellous. oldmacdaddy.co.za

13. Paul Wallace Cottages
This pair of cute two-bedroom cottages, adjacent to the wine-tasting room, are close to each other (so not very private) but they’re sparkling clean,
with lovely views through every window. From R1, 500 (sleep four). paulwallacewines.co.za


Expert reviews by Pippa de Bruyn
Photographs by Jotham Van Tonder

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